Street art experienced a renaissance during the 1970s, when hip hop culture began to emerge and the underground scene began to colored with tags, images and stylized writing. Fast forward some forty years and everything from walls to entire trains have been canvases for graffiti artists. Here are five latin street artists that have pushed the boundaries of the game, have traveled the world showing their skills yet have never stopped calling New York City their home.
Immortalized by the film Wild Style, a hip hop documentary released in 1983 that follows a number of seminal graffiti and music artists from New York, Lee Quiñones is one of the forefathers of graffiti art. He began by tagging NYC subway cars, painting entire trains in some of the most large-scale graffiti work up to that time. His work was documented in the groundbreaking art book Subway Art, which is one of the most sold art books to date, raising awareness of graffiti art throughout the world. If you’re in NYC and want to catch a screening of Wild Style, head over to East River Park on August 26th.
One of the few women graffiti artists that’s met mainstream success, Lady Pink was part of the first wave of graffiti artists that came out of Queens in the early ‘80s. Lady Pink started tagging walls and subway cars when she was in high school, gaining immediate recognition for her distinctive style and name. Also featured in Wild Style, Lady Pink went on to create a number of legendary works, in both graffiti and painting mediums. She has collaborated with many of graffiti’s heavy hitters and her paintings are periodically included in graffiti exhibitions.
This Chilean artist now living in Brooklyn started in the early ‘90s and has done some of the most recognizable works in NYC. His work is figurative, using images and symbols to influence viewers, a shift in graffiti that signals a move towards more image-focused works rather than just writing. He works in both canvas and large-scale murals, a sample of which you can see in this time-lapse painting.
Cern is a NYC-based graffiti artist that creates fanciful scenes that blend color and humour with some serious skill. Cern began writing graffiti in the early nineties and has since been inspired by a range of artistic genres. His scenes can be found around the world as well as in several books including Burning New York and Graffiti World. A member of the YMI crew, Cern often collaborates with other heavy hitters like Revok and Pose. Cern’s unique blend of fantasy and realism exhibits a technical mastery of his medium that blurs the lines between graffiti and fine art.
If you like your graffiti art with a side of social commentary, then Mata Ruda is your guy. A native Venezuelan, Mata Ruda often draws upon Latin American history when creating his work. Channeling everything from Mexican religious imagery to jornaleros (or day laborers), Mata reveals the power of art to inspire change and appreciation for Latin culture. He is currently working on a project titled “Colossal Series” in which he paints large Olmec heads in public spaces to commemorate the prehistoric Mexican civilization.